The Underworld Railroad
by Jason M. Burns, Paul Tucker (Viper, 2007)

Heaven, apparently, is a vast bureaucracy and, while some souls are processed into the afterlife immediately following their corporeal deaths, others are forced to remain in a transitional phase on Earth while their balance of good and evil is judged. During that period of judgmental limbo, however, the devil is free to claim them for Hell.

That's where The Underworld Railroad comes in. Much like the Underground Railroad that offered succor to slaves fleeing the American South, the Underworld Railroad offers shelter and a safe haven to souls on the run from damnation.

Bruce Boyd runs one such haven in New Hampshire, but his cover is blown when the devil herself tracks a soul to his doorstep. God's blessing on the house prevents the devil from entering or harming those within, but that doesn't mean she'll give up the soul without a fight -- and the devil, as you may have heard, fights dirty.

The story by Jason M. Burns is an entertaining journey for various souls -- some living, some lingering -- in the conflict that arises. Boyd has allies, including a priest, a pure-souled witch who died but chose not to move on and a powerful son of a serial killer, but the devil has an endless number of tricks and torments at her disposal.

But, while the story is cleverly crafted, it at times feels rushed, like maybe Burns needed a few more pages to work with. Worse, the story is linked to drab, lifeless art by Paul Tucker; it's ugly and thick, lacking in detail or expression. I would have thoroughly enjoyed this book if another artist had made it more palatable to the eye.

The concept is rife with potential, and Burns would do well to pursue it further. If he takes the challenge, I hope Viper Comics teams him with an artist more suited to the material.

review by
Tom Knapp

24 November 2007

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